Action Figures of World War II

Allied Forces

GI Joe-U.S. Generals of WW II


With the renewed interest in 12″ action figures of all kinds, Hasbro decided to go beyond the 12″ versions of their “Hall of Fame” G.I. Joe line and reintroduce a series of figure closer in spirit to the original G.I. Joe lineup. Hasbro’s G I Joe Classic Collection figures were first released in 1996, under the Kenner brand.

The following four figures were the initial Classic Collection offering: U.S. Army Infantry (desert camo), British SAS, Australian ODF and U.S. Airborne Ranger. Over the next few years a wide range of figures was released, with overall attention to equipment and clothing detail. Minor changes were made to the actual figure during the “Classic Collection” run, until the broader G.I. Joe releases that used the same body, at which point variants with “fuzz heads”, “kung fu” grip and greater articulation were introduced. This line re-introduced the attention to detail and range of equipment/uniforms that had made the original figure popular in the 60’s. Although sold as a toy, a prime target market was the then growing G.I. Joe collector’s market. This line sparked a resurgence in 12″ military action figures; a number of other companies began selling a wide range of military sets and vehicles, in most cases with more attention to detail than the Hasbro lineup, but not necessarily of a higher quality. In any event, this created a lot of competition for Hasbro’s new G.I. Joe. Some figures were extremely close in detail and construction, such as this figure sold by 21st Century Toys; it carried its own trademarking, even though it seems a blatant copy of Hasbro’s product. Later, companies such as Dragon Models Limited produced figures with a far greater range of articulation & detail, at a premium price, but nonetheless very appealing to collectors.

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Classic Collection Historical Commanders

General Colin L. Powell, General Omar N. Bradley, General George Patton, General Dwight Eisenhower and General George Washington (not shown). Again, bodies were all the same mold, with head mold particular to the character portrayed.


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Various ethnicities in addition to Native American and African American were implied through different skin tones and head sculpt variations. These figures offered a higher level of articulation than the Hall Of Fame (HOF) figures offered earlier in the 90’s, or the G.I. Joe store exclusives from 1996 (Airborne MP, Battle of the Bulge, Dress Marine, Navy Seal w/raft, Navy Admiral, and others) that were based on the HOF body, with an adaptation of the original 60’s head sculpt. and the weapons were more appropriately scaled to the figures. The bodies were also closer in spirit to the original G I Joe of the sixties, articulated in a similar fashion, albeit of a much heavier plastic, with stiff joints which negatively impacted the posability of the figures. The faces featured the trademark scar on the right cheek, and initially only one head mold was used, with the exception of the African American figure. All these early heads had a “flat-top” crewcut look. Later issues after the end of the deluxe windowbox format offered a variety of head molds, although the heads themselves were no longer as proportionate to the body, generally on the small side, including the flat-top version. The hands were also an improvement over the bulky HOF hand design, but still not to the level of the 70’s kung-fu grip, and were still somewhat over-sized, with no separation of the fingers (although deft use of an xacto knife easily remedied this aspect). Later issue hands were smaller and more proportionate, some had fingers that pivoted on a pin running through the knuckles. The clothing and footwear was arguably of a more realistic nature than the earlier figures.

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21st Century Ultimate Soldier-Allied Soldiers

The Ultimate Soldier was produced by the company known as 21st Century Toys. It was founded in 1997, and began making 1/6 scale figures and uniforms, and now mostly makes 1/6 scale weapon sets as well as 1/18 and 1/32 scale toys. The action figures are based on World War Two, Vietnam War, Korean War, and Operation Desert Storm soldiers.

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 (source Wiki)

In 1997, 21st Century Toys decided to create a “12” inch soldier with more detailed accessories than Hasbro‘s G.I. Joe. The original SAM action figures released featured the same basic movable joint design as the G.I. Joe Classic Collection action figures featuring 15 movable parts. They were slightly taller with a slimmer build, and made with flexible plastic. The hands were a main concern, because they were stiff and difficult to place accessories into, as well as having an unrealistic head sculpt with a baby-face like design. In 1999, the company released the Super Soldier body design with 27 movable parts. The expanded line included three new categories: The original Ultimate Soldier line included a Vietnam Veterans Memorial set of The Three Soldiers, a Spetsnaz soldier and sniper, a Navy SEAL, George S. Patton, Erwin Rommel and various other modern day soldiers. The America’s Finest line included Steve McQueen, firefighters, and a K-9 police officer. The Villains line included Boris; a KGB enforcer agent, a bounty Hunter named T-Gore, and a biker. The Misfits line included Jerry Only and Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein from the band the Misfits. A United States Secret Service agent was being considered when it was mentioned in a fan club] news letter; unfortunately this led to an unknown rival toy company producing it before 21st Century toys made their final decision about releasing it. This basic design was used in 2000 to create the Cy Girls known as the Perfect Body Female .

The arms had four parts, featuring fore arms, elbow pieces, lower biceps joints, and upper biceps/shoulder joints. The legs also had four parts with movable hips, calves, thighs and knee caps. The torso consisted of a movable chestpiece, abdomen and a pelvic piece connected by screws and springs. The head consisted of a pivoting neck joint (also connected by a spring and screw) with a universal socket joint for the rubber molded head to connect to. The new head sculpt was much more realistic. The double-jointed elbows and knees enabled the arms and legs to be posed into folded positions. This action figure could be posed into the lotus position and any other position that the human body was capable of (and several it was not capable of). The two main concerns were the following: the flap sections on the calves and thigh connecting to the knee caps would have gaps in between them, and the connecting joints created a loose fit. The pivot joint connecting the neck to the torso was also very loose fitting, so that if it were accidentally knocked out of place or removed, there was no known way to put it back on. There were also complaints about the Nazi soldiers from the Third Reich being on the shelves. In 2002 the “12” inch line was cancelled as companies such as Dragon Models, Blue Box (BBI), Sideshow Collectibles, In the Past Toys and various other rival companies released their products with the same basic body design and their more detailed accessories. 21st Century Toys has moved on to producing smaller palm-sized planes, tanks and action figures.

I still drive by their once hustling bustling business location of the 90’s located on Alameda Street in Los Angeles near Little Tokyo.  The name “21st Century Toys” may even still be on their old building. 

Jakks Pacific Agrees to Buy 21st Century Toys

California | IN BRIEF / Southland |May 8, 2001

Jakks Pacific Inc. agreed to buy rival 21st Century Toys Inc., a maker of military action figures and accessories, under undisclosed terms. The Malibu-based company plans to combine 21st Century with its action toys division, which features Road Champs toy vehicles and World Wrestling Federation action figures. Alameda-based 21st Century, whose products include the Ultimate Soldier XD, America’s Finest and the Villains, had sales of about $28 million last year. Jakks had $252.3 million in sales last year. Shares of Jakks fell 2 cents to $14 on Nasdaq. They had risen 54% this year.

Blue Box Toys (BBI)

  Around 2001 Blue Box Toys (BBI) began producing modern era figures of the same quality as those manufactured by DML. These figures were notable for their die-cast accessories and quirky “Custom Expression Mechanism”, by which facial expressions could be adjusted somewhat by turning a small screw in the back of the head, both of which were met with mixed results by collectors yet indisputably made headway in the evolution of accessory and headsculpt detail. BBI later produced WWII era figures as well, but the company has also recently shifted its focus to smaller scale figures.

Dragon-Allied Soldiers (source Wiki)

Military Action Figures (1/6 scale)

In 1999, Dragon introduced its New Generation Life Action Figure series. The series features fully posable military and licensed 12-inch figures with cloth uniforms, weapons and equipment.  Their figures were held in high esteem by collectors due to their both high quality and accurate products. Their main focus became World War II figures, but they have released figures from the Vietnam War, the Falklands War, Korean War, both the first and second Gulf Wars, and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. They have also released vehicles and crew-served heavy weapons in 1:6 scale.  The series currently stands at some 400-plus individual releases, with subjects varying from World War II, Modern Special Operations and Law Enforcement, to licensed character figures from movies, sports, electronic games and comics. The curral equipment ranging up to paratroopers with aircraft walls, functioning parachutes and many vehicles.

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Dragon in Dreams- Allied Forces & Soldiers

About DID (Dragon In Dream) from their website

DID Corporation, a manufacturer of 12 inch (1:6 scale) collectable action figurines, was established in 2003. We are based in Hong Kong and have our own factories in South China. With great talents, straight quality control and experienced production expertise, we design and manufacture our own branded high quality products and has developed a global distribution network backed by the powerful support of our distributors, wholesale agents, dealers, collectors and hobbyists all around the world. Beyond DID’s own Branding, we also produce other products including ODM(Own Development Manufacture) and OEM (Original Equipment Manufacture) for other famous international toy companies, like Hasbro in UK and Bandai in Japan, etc. The high quality products that DID produced have won high appreciation from many magazines over time. And some of our collectible products are even being displayed in museums. “DID”, our label, has set a new standard in the 1:6 scale collectible action figurine toy industry.

Our Products (Dragon In Dream)

We have developed many successful and diverse series of products, including 12” W-II Military Action Figure series, 12” Napoleonic Action Figure series, 12” Japanese Samurai Action Figure series, 12” Fashion Figure series, 12” Movie Figure series, 12” X-Games / Sports Figure series and 1: 6 scale accessories series (1:6 Scale Army Vehicle, 1:6 Scale Weapon Accessories, 1:6 Scale Leather Shoes and Uniform Accessories, 1:6 Ultimate Realistic horses etc.) . DID produces over 50 different items a year that no one in the industry can match! (in their opinion) DID always pursues high quality and diversification of products and parts. Thus, realistic, life-like and accurate, action figures are what you can find in all the DID products such as the widely popular WWII Series action figures that no one can pass up. To ensure we keep pace with today’s fast moving markets, we continued to expand our catalog by producing the stylized and innovative 12 inch Icon Series figures in 2008. The detailed and realistic figures are universally recognized as setting the new benchmark in high-quality collectible figures.

Our mission (Dragon In Dream)

“Leading the way!” is our slogan as DID is always leading the collectible action figure industry. To maintain our market leadership, we will continue to develop new technology, and surely will keep up the good work of the whole team. We will keep trying our very best to produce unique and dynamite figures for the hobby world, and of course, we will offer our fans a reasonable price in getting those collector-oriented figures as always. So, Expand your army! Expand your collection! DID promises to bring you the best products value for your buck!


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DID- British Forces

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General George S. Patton

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Soldier Story (with Cal Tek)

This company builds really nice action figures.  They are as good as the other top contenders, and in some cases even better. In my opinion, DID and Soldier Story are running neck and neck in the Action Figure Market these days. One thing I noticed and appreciated was when kitbashing a military action figure, Soldier Story uniforms, and accessories always fit well.   The head sculpts are life-like, they come loaded with accessories, and uniform stuff.  I can’t really say that for too many of the other action figure Companies.  I don’t want to get into the steep rise in cost of these AF’s lately, because that is a real drag-down on this whole Hobby right now!

CalTek is a U.S. based wholesaler, distributor and manufacturer of high quality action figures and die cast models. Who service a world wide distribution network from Pomona, CA.  This is a good company too.  They are making nice action figures now.  Before, I always noticed their logo on the Soldier Story AF’s Boxes.  I guess as a supplier of some parts or accessories for that item.  The French Infantryman of 1940 (below) is a good example of what they are producing on their own.  We will see another one when we take a look at the German Army.  I am really fortunate to be located in Action Figure Central here in Los Angeles.  These different top of the line action figure manufacturing companies have made this their Pacific American launch point from a  product shipping standpoint.  The only better place to be for action figures is probably in Hong Cong.

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(To Be Continued)

Next- up, The Axis Forces

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